This story starts, as most stories these days do, with someone trolling a web forum. That someone was me. I post semi-inflammatory comments on my local newspaper website. The other people who post there are generally far right wing wackos, religious nuts, and people who are far too emotionally invested in city government. What happens is the editors publish semi-literate Letters-to-the-editor about hot button issues. This draws out the initial wave of wackos. Then I come in and post someone that I know will inflame the wackos to even greater right wing nutjob fervor. Classic trolling.
Recently, there was in my Podunk county a Frog Leg Festival. Yes, that’s right. A festival where rednecks and swamp people gather to eat fried frog legs and listen to country music and ride carney rides and play carney games. The newpaper website posted a story about it, and I commented on the story by saying something along the lines of, “a well placed explosive device at the frog leg festival would do everyone a favor.” Clearly, this is satire. I am not a terrorist, not do I plan on using bombs to kill rednecks. Mission accomplished, the next handful of comments were people offended by my comment expressing shock and outrage. Classic trolling. My comment was deleted by the moderators and I assumed that was the end of the story.
Before I start the next phase of the story, it will only make sense if I take a brief aside. In our local government, there is a political gadfly. The gentleman is a conspiracy theorist anti-government nut job. He attends every city council and county commission meeting and regular accuses the councilmen and women of being liars and thieves. He makes all sorts of preposterous allegations. Not surprisingly, he also posts the same insane ramblings on the newspaper website. He is my favorite character as he is a completely paranoid delusional nut job. Not only do I troll the website in general, I troll him in specific. My screen name is a variation of his real name, this is a key detail. Remember, before you think I’m a jerk for what follows, that this guy is a lunatic. He is an awful person and deserves all the bad things in life. Don’t believe me? The guy evicted his own children from the house he owns that they rented from him.
So back to the story. Someone reported my “explosive device” comment as a terrorist threat to the sheriff. Some simple moron actually thought it was a legitimate threat. So the super sharp detectives got my IP from the newspaper and zeroed right in on me? As I learned after the fact, the extent of their investigation was to see that my screen name was similar to this guy’s real name, and assumed that I was him. What happens next is where the story goes to epic. They pay a visit to this guy at 9pm Friday night to ask him some questions about the posting. Since he is a paranoid, anti-government wacko, he told the detectives to “get lost, pigs.” Smooth.
The police did not get lost. They got a warrant. And they came back to his house around midnight and bashed the door in. It didn’t take long after that to get his cooperation, and it didn’t take long after that for them to realize that he wasn’t the poster of the “threat.” I knew I was an expert internet troll, but my trolling is apparently so good that it crossed over into real life. A combination of his innate insanity and my expert trolling resulted in his door getting blown off the hinges. Sometimes I manage to impress myself.
So the detectives finally trace the IP and narrow it down to my employer. The IT people quickly figure out who it is, and I get summoned for an interview with the detectives. The detectives asked me a bunch of questions about the post itself. I tried to explain the joy I get of exciting the lunatics on there with my trolling. They were serious people and didn’t see the humor in making people on the internet mad at you. Maybe it’s a generational gap, I dunno. I figured everyone knows the internet exists for the sole purpose of half the population using it to infuriating the other half, and then laughing about it. Then they asked me about bomb making and if I was involved in any extremist political organizations. Of course, I replied that I am not a bomb maker, nor am I affiliated with any revolutionary groups.
I figured that cleared it up, but the detectives apparently weren’t convinced. They asked me if I would object to them searching my house. I asked, “if I say yes, are you going to destroy stuff and trash the house?” They replied that they wouldn’t so I said sure.
They put me in the back of their car, which luckily enough was an unmarked car and not a police car which would have been humiliating. We get to my house. They do a cursory look around and even say, “You have a nice house.” Gee, thanks. They did a brief search through my living room, kitchen and garage. I honestly think If I had the chemicals to make a bomb in my garage they wouldn’t have found it. They went through the drawers in my bedroom briefly. They didn’t even find where I stash my pistol and my shotgun, though I did warn them ahead of time that I was a gun owners.
What they were interested in, however, was my books. If you haven’t been to my house, I have several book cases full of books. I think they were looking for instructions on how to make bombs or revolutionary propaganda. They spent 5 minutes looking through my room, but 20 minutes going through my books. Every now and then they would pull one out and ask me what it was about. “Umm that one is a compilation of essays from a symposium on the collapse of ancient civilizations.” Very controversial stuff there. My copy of The People Speak by Howard Zinn got a weird comment out of them. The detective pulled it out and said, “now I see where you get it from.” I don’t even know what that means. I didn’t know Howard Zinn’s books spark people into trolling websites, or maybe the cop was a fascist and doesn’t like Howard Zinn. Luckily, they decided there was nothing of interest to them there and gave up.
I say luckily, because I remembered later that I own a copy of The Anarchist’s Cookbook that I bought when I was 15. If you aren’t aware, that book is basically an instruction manual of how to over throw the government and make bombs and weapons out of house hold items and things that can be acquired at hardware stores. I am rather glad that they didn’t notice it, because it may have complicated matters somewhat. Or a lot. Then again, I didn’t commit a crime, and owning that book isn’t illegal.
So all told, I have achieved epic troll status. I got my enemy’s door bashed in by the police through my machinations on a website, and I came away with a fantastic story. At no time was I really worried, since my “threat” was clearly satire and covered by free speech. Actually, the only thing I was worried about was how my boss would take it, but she didn’t seem to care at all, and in fact thought the story was great. Win again. A cursory search of my book shelf is a small price to pay for the smiting of one’s enemies.